Zac Celedonia’s 2022 3-Round Steelers Mock Draft
I’ve pushed this off for as long as humanly possible. Some would call it laziness, procrastination, and lack of discipline; some call it genius.
Okay, the procrastination was a big part of it, but a whole lot of people mocked the Steelers a safety early, and they just re-signed 2021 starter, Terrell Edmunds.
I don’t think safety is entirely off the table early, but I think either Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame) or Daxton Hill (Michigan) would be the only two Pittsburgh would consider taking in the first round. They are widely considered the best safeties in the class.
I’m a Lewis Cine (Georgia) guy myself, but my whole reasoning for liking him more than Dax Hill, for the Steelers, in particular, is because I think Cine filled the Terrell Edmunds role the best. Now Terrell Edmunds can fill the Terrell Edmunds role instead. (I think he’ll do a good job!)
Hamilton and Hill are both extremely talented in coverage and versatile, so even with Edmunds back in the fold for a year, they could still have roles and playing time with the starting defense this season. We could still hear one of those two names early on draft night.
That’s not where I’m going, but I was tempted many times while running the mock draft simulators.
Instead, I doubled down on a take I tweeted earlier: I believe a huge reason for the timing and the signing of Edmunds was to ensure draft flexibility, so the Steelers do not have to worry about safety in this draft. If the Steelers feel they need to trade up, for someone (let’s just say Malik Willis) now they can do so.
My best guess is if they want to do that, they will either have to part with their second-round pick or their third-round pick this year and something next year. This was a harder pill to swallow before the Edmunds deal, because the bulk of this safety class, is, of course, projected to go in rounds two and three.
Now they have the flexibility. But that’s enough of trade-up talk/don’t trade-up talk for now. I know what you’re all here for: cold hard facts, substance, and the truth!
I did not include trades in my mock draft, because that’s dumb. Unless you’re purposely trying to have fun with it and just see how the board falls, it’s impossible to predict trades. The NFL Draft is a big enough question as it is, so I don’t try and guess trades ahead of time.
What I did do, however, was run The Draft Network’s mock draft machine. Or simulator… they call it a machine for some reason. But I ran it eight times.
Why eight times?! I’ll explain soon.
First Round (20): Malik Willis – Quarterback (Liberty)
Oh yeah baby, you read that right. I have the Steelers landing the big fish, the headliner, the apple of Mike Tomlin’s eye: Malik Willis.
“No way Willis falls to 20.” I can hear the moaning and groaning already.
Look that may very well be the case, but that’s the whole reason I ran the simulator eight times. It took me eight times to get Malik Willis at 20, three times. I wanted to get him three times to ensure it wasn’t a fluke. (I took screenshots and all! We have receipts!)
In my findings, I concluded that the most common spot Willis goes before the Steelers is right at 19 to the Saints. In those instances, elite-level players such as Chris Olave, and Jordan Davis were sitting right there for the taking at 20.
So number one: if they need to jump the Saints, whether it be their pick at 19 or 16, it won’t cost much at all. And number two, if Malik Willis does go too early, the Steelers should get their pick of a pretty darn good player who falls in his place.
I’m telling you these fun facts because I’m a people pleaser. If you don’t want Malik Willis, well fine dude, there’s going to be plenty of talent left at 20.
And if you’re scared to death of trading up because you think it will cost a king’s ransom, I say it won’t. That’s all the comfort you get from me because like it or not, here comes Malik.
The Steelers get their quarterback of the future and I’m a happy camper. I’m also willing to bet that goes double for Mike Tomlin, whose love for Willis is currently the worst kept secret in the NFL.
Second Round (52): Christian Watson – Wide Receiver (North Dakota State)
Sticking with the theme above, I have the Steelers selecting a player who some say will be long gone by the second round. To those people, and to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you exhibits A and B: Chase Claypool and DK Metcalf.
Once Claypool and Metcalf killed their respective combines, everyone swore up and down that neither would make it out of the first round. Both players made it comfortably into the second round.
Christian Watson from North Dakota State is the latest height, weight, and speed sensation in this year’s draft class.
The Steelers met with Watson at the Senior Bowl. Like his aforementioned counterparts, Watson has great size and speed, measuring in at 6-4 and running a 4.36 40-yard dash at this year’s combine.
I think Watson has a much wider route tree than both Claypool and Metcalf coming out of college. He has as good of a shot of making it to the Steelers at pick 52 as Claypool did, in my opinion, because it will be hard for some teams to look past that “North Dakota State” after his name. (At least in round 1, that is.)
The Steelers get their next “great” receiver (in the making) and the crowd goes nuts.
Third Round (84): Coby Bryant – Cornerback (Cincinnati)
Finally, we make our way to the defensive backfield; although, I don’t have the Steelers selecting a safety.
If you would have told me that last week I would have slapped you across the face. Instead, I have them taking who I saw as the best overall player available at pick 84: CB Coby Bryant from Cincinnati.
Corner is a common place some go to in the first round when not targeting a quarterback. Pittsburgh very well could, I just don’t see the urgency in doing so.
The team has their top three corners in place with Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, and Cam Sutton. Depth isn’t great, so I can still understand a “need” to draft another defensive back.
Cameron Sutton has one year left on the deal he signed last offseason, and even though I’m high on them, Witherspoon and Wallace will have their work cut out for them versus the AFC quarterbacks.
I see both sides of the coin, that’s why I think investing in this area is smart. A corner may not be my tip-top priority, however, investing a third-round pick in Coby Bryant, may be the best value you’ll find without going after one in the first round.
Bryant has impressive size: plus a 6-foot-1 frame and ball skills to go along with it. The Jim Thorpe Award winner in 2021 for the nation’s best defensive back would have gotten much more shine if not for Sauce Gardner playing on the other side.
The Steelers steal Bryant here and set themselves up in a better position with their corner depth going forward. (And if he can get on the field as a rookie great but this pick might not pay dividends until 2023, which is fine.)